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Hurricane watch issued for Florida Gulf Coast from Anclote River to Big Bend

Hurricane watch issued for Florida Gulf Coast from Anclote River to Big Bend.

  • The advice, officials say, will continue into Wednesday before the height of the storm is expected Thursday.
  • Starting late Wednesday, Tampa Bay will be on tornado watch until Thursday morning at the earliest, according to Deskins.
  • The system that has puzzled forecasters for days could finally be named Tropical Storm Hermine late this evening – and it is rearing to drop heaps of rain on Tampa Bay, meteorologists say.
  • The latest from the Hurricane Center website Tuesday said a tropical storm watch will “likely be issued for portion of the Florida Gulf Coast later.”
  • Pasco County: The County will have sandbags available until further notice from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the West Pasco Government Center at 7356 State Street in New Port Richey.


The system that has puzzled forecasters for days could finally be named Tropical Storm Hermine late this evening — and it is rearing to drop heaps of rain on Tampa Bay, meteorologists say.

@TBOcom: Hurricane watch issued for Florida Gulf Coast from Anclote River to Big Bend.

The system that has puzzled forecasters for days could finally be named Tropical Storm Hermine late this evening — and it is rearing to drop heaps of rain on Tampa Bay, meteorologists say.

At 5 p.m., forecasters still hadn’t named the system, Depression Nine, as a tropical storm. Instead, they issued a hurricane watch for a wide swath of the Gulf Coast, from Gulf County on the Panhandle to the Anclote River in northern Pinellas County.

Depression Nine was still churning with sustained winds of 35 mph in the Gulf of Mexico at 5 p.m. Tuesday, forecasters said, heading northwest toward the Florida coast at 5 miles per hour. It was expected to gain strength and turn northward in the coming days, eventually hitting the coast in the watch zone on Thursday.

Previous coverage: Tropical storm could lash Tampa Bay area with storm surge, torrential downpours later this week

The latest from the Hurricane Center website Tuesday said a tropical storm watch will “likely be issued for portion of the Florida Gulf Coast later.” It also predicted the system will cross the northern part of the state near the Big Bend region, reaching landfall by Thursday.

“Wednesday night into Thursday morning the eye is still out in the gulf,” 10Weather WTSP meteorologist Bobby Deskins said, “but the bad weather is out east toward Florida.”

Forecasters said 50 mph winds could sweep through the area by 2 p.m. Wednesday, reaching 65 mph by nightfall and into Thursday morning. Between 4 and 6 inches of rain is forecast to hit along the coast, with a 40 to 50 percent chance of winds greater than 45 mph.

While Pasco County officials had not ordered an evacuation Tuesday, emergency services director Kevin Guthrie encouraged those who know they live in low lying areas to consider leaving on their own.

“Maybe it’d be a good time to spend a long weekend with [family],” he said during a Tuesday news conference.

On the same day, mayors of St. Petersburg and Tampa warned residents from their respective city halls to heed any advisories and be smart when facing flooded roadways. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriesman and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said their cities expect more than 5 inches of rain over two days.

“But it’s important for you all to know the city is prepared for this event,” Kriseman said.

Both mayors anticipated standing water or flooded streets.

“We all saw last year a number of flooded cars as a result of people thinking the water was shallower than what it was. … Do not drive through standing water,” Buckhorn said. “If we can avoid that, we can avoid 90 percent of the problems that we have.”

Before the first raindrops even fell from the expected storm, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers moved their final NFL preseason game against the Washington Redskins at Raymond James Stadium from Thursday to Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Chief operating officer Brian Ford said the decision was made by both the teams and the National Football League to ensure the safety of players, fans and staff.

By Tuesday afternoon, both Hillsborough and Pinellas schools said they were monitoring the weather and in touch with their county’s emergency management teams, but had not canceled classes. Pasco County said it would make decisions about its school closings by Wednesday evening at the latest.

Deskins said if there’s a tropical storm warning, schools should keep kids at home — which didn’t happen immediately when Tropical Storm Colin hit Tampa Bay in June. Some districts brought children in during the morning only to send them home early as the storm ramped up.

Meteorologists have been tracking this weather system — known before as Invest 99L — since last week. Then, it was hard to say whether the storm would dissipate or grow into a hurricane.

Dustin Norman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Ruskin, said the odds of a hurricane forming are low — but there will likely be a storm surge, especially along the coastlines in Hernando, Pasco and Citrus Counties.

That means the storm will likely cause a rise in sea level, Norman said. Thursday is also a new moon. The highest tide is expected Thursday afternoon, he said — the same time the storm might first make landfall.

There could be one to two feet of rising water along Pinellas County, he said, while the areas more likely to be affected by the storm surge — such as Hernando Beach — could see rises of more than four feet.

Pasco County’s rivers were well below flood stage, Guthrie said, meaning they’ll be able to handle stormwater runoff. However, Guthrie warned, a higher than normal tide coupled with the surge could prevent the Anclote River from properly draining into the Gulf of Mexico until the weekend, and that may cause flooding.

Starting late Wednesday, Tampa Bay will be on tornado watch until Thursday morning at the earliest, according to Deskins. Those along the Nature Coast are most likely to see those formations, he said.

Across Tampa Bay, residents Tuesday were encouraged to fill sandbags, stock up on flashlights and batteries and look over family disaster plans.

That advice, officials say, will continue into Wednesday before the height of the storm is expected Thursday.

Meteorologists encourage people to prepare themselves with flashlights and batteries, and for those in living in low-level land to pick up sandbags.

♦ Where to get sandbags in Tampa Bay

Hillsborough County: Pick-up runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday at West Service Unit, 9805 Sheldon Road in Tampa; South Service Unit; 8718 Old Big Bend Road in Gibsonton; and East Service Unit, 4702 Sydney Road in Plant City.

Tampa: The City of Tampa will be running three pick-up sites until further notice from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Bobby Hicks Pool, 4201 W. Mango Ave.; Barksdale Active Adult Center at MacFarlane Park, 1801 N. Lincoln Ave.; and the Jackson Heights Community Center, 3310 E. Lake Ave.

Pinellas County: Sandbags will be available during daylight hours on Tuesday at John Chesnut Sr. Park, 2200 East Lake Road in Palm Harbor; Lealman Community Park, 3890 55th Ave. N. in St. Petersburg; and Taylor Park, 1100 Eighth Ave. S.W. in Largo.

Pinellas Park: Residents can get sandbags at the City Adamek Building at 7780 60th Street N from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.

St. Petersburg: Residents can pick up sandbags from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Northeast Park, 875 62nd Avenue NE and Bartlett Park on 22nd Avenue S. between Sixth and Seventh Streets.

Pasco County: The County will have sandbags available until further notice from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the West Pasco Government Center at 7356 State Street in New Port Richey.

New Port Richey: 6240 Pine Hill Road, daily 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Dade City: 38042 Pasco Ave., daily 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

This is a developing story. Stay with tampabay.com for updates.

Hurricane watch issued for Florida Gulf Coast from Anclote River to Big Bend

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